Roger Federer crashed out of the 2021 Noventi Open on Wednesday with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 defeat at the hands of Canadian youngster Felix Auger-Aliassime. This marks the first time that the Swiss has ever lost at Halle before the quarterfinals.
Federer was extremely inconsistent from the back of the court and handed his 20-year-old opponent the biggest win of his fledgling career.
The 39-year-old, who has set himself lofty goals at Wimbledon, was poor from start to finish barring a couple of games in the opening set where he struck some sweetly-timed return winners.
On that note, here are three key takeaways from Federer's defeat against Auger-Aliassime:
#1 Roger Federer's return was seriously misfiring
Roger Federer's return-of-serve was almost non-existent on Wednesday. The Swiss managed to win only 14 out of 69 points on the Canadian's serve.
Auger-Aliassime committed two double faults, meaning Federer could win only 12 points on the Canadian's serve of his own accord.
Four of those came in the game he broke, meaning he managed a paltry 10 points on Auger-Aliassime's serve in the remaining 13 games. That amounts to less than one point per return game.
A strong return is of supreme importance on quick surfaces like grass, and Federer's inability to get enough of Auger-Aliassime's serves back in play hurt him big time.
#2 Roger Federer cannot win when his serve is off
Roger Federer was shoddy not just on the return, but also on serve. The 39-year-old faced 15 break points in the match and got broken thrice.
Interestingly enough, this is the highest number of break points Federer has ever faced in a best-of-three-sets grasscourt match. The previous record for the Swiss was 11 against Olivier Rochus at Halle in 2006.
Even though Federer saved 12 break points with some clutch serving and forehands, he couldn't quite hit his spots consistently enough to trouble the Canadian. Federer also served slower than usual, often clocking speeds of less than 180 kmph on his first serve.
#3 Roger Federer could find it tough to reach the second week at Wimbledon
It is clear that Roger Federer's foot speed has reduced significantly. While the World No. 8's deficiencies were partially masked on clay, where he had plenty of time to reach the opponent's shots, the quicker grasscourts aren't allowing him the same luxury.
Add in Federer's abysmal return game and inconsistent serving, and his chances of doing damage at Wimbledon appear to be slim.
The 20-time champion has struggled against big servers and solid returners at Wimbledon in recent years. And a watered-down version of the Swiss is unlikely to make much of an impact this time.